The No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes lost their first game of the season to No. 13 Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon, losing 71-67 after blowing a 15 point lead at the Kohl Center.
That shouldn’t exactly be a surprise.
Wisconsin might just be the best team in the country on their home court. Already sitting in the top 15 in both of the rankings and tied for second in the Big Ten with Purdue, its tough to define this game as an upset. Vegas certainly wouldn’t; Wisconsin was a one point favorite.
What was a surprise, however, was how Wisconsin won this game.
Its no secret that the Badgers are the slowest team in the country in terms of possessions. They are deliberate in what they want to do offensively, they don’t force a ton of turnovers, and they play solid enough defense that they force their opponents to chew up clock as they work for a good shot. Bo Ryan’s system is built on efficiency, and efficiency is rarely pretty.
In other words, the Badgers don’t score a ton of points, and they generally don’t score all that quickly.
Which is why I was getting ready to map out a column on how Ohio State was the nation’s one truly great team when a 21-6 run that spanned both halves gave the Buckeyes a 47-32 lead with 13:16 left in the game.
But Jordan Taylor had other plans.
Taylor, it should be noted, has been robbed twice this week. He wasn’t a finalist for the Cousy Award, which is a list of the nation’s 10 best point guards, and he wasn’t on the list of the 30 Naismith Award finalists. Taylor’s averaging 17.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, and 4.5 apg with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.9:1 as the Badger’s primary ball-handler playing almost 36 mpg. Considering that he is putting those numbers up with the fewest number of opportunities (possessions) in the country, it’s a travesty he wasn’t a finalist for those awards, but thats another post for another day.
In the second half today, Taylor proved to country why he was robbed.
He took the game over in the final 13:16. He scored on a tough drive. Two possessions later, he knocked down a three to get the lead to ten. On Wisconsin’s next possession, he buried another three to cut Ohio State’s lead to seven. After two Mike Bruesewitz free throws and another jumper from Taylor, the Badger’s point guard found freshman John Gasser for a three that tied the game with 9:46 left.
It took Wisconsin, the nation’s slowest team, just 3:30 to erase a 15 point deficit against the No. 1 and last remaining undefeated team in the country, and it was Taylor — with 10 points and an assist in the run — that was the hero.
He was far from done.
Wisconsin’s surge would continue for the next five minutes, and when it was all said and done, the Badgers had put a 30-8 run on the Buckeyes, turning a 47-32 deficit into a 62-55 lead. Taylor had 15 points and three assists in the run.
Ohio State didn’t quit, as they were able to get the lead down to 65-63 with under a minute left, but Taylor found Bruesewitz for a wide open three at the top of the key with 29 seconds left. A couple of free throws down the stretch was all the Badgers needed to allow all hell to break loose on the Kohl Center floor.
All told, Taylor had 21 of his 27 points and four of his seven assists in the final 13:16 against Ohio State.
Despite the win, Wisconsin probably doesn’t have a chance to win the Big Ten regular season title. They are still a full two games behind the Buckeyes, and if it takes a 15 point comeback by Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in the last 13 minutes for Ohio State to lose, its tough to envision the Buckeyes losing two more games this season.
In fact, I’m not sure I would even take Ohio State out of the No. 1 spot in Monday’s poll.
There is no shame in losing to Wisconsin at Wisconsin.
And while he won’t be named the nation’s best point guard or best player, the nation now knows who Jordan Taylor is.